Adaptation of Takashi Noguchi's manga, which itself adapts Baku Yumemakura's supernatural romance novel.
The original novel is about a 12th-century man named Minamoto no Yoshitsune (Kurou). Kurou flees into the mountains after losing to his brother Minamoto no Yoritomo, the first Shogun to rule all of Japan. History records that he committed suicide, but instead, Kurou meets a strange, beautiful woman named Kuromitsu in her mountain hermitage. Eventually, Kurou falls in love with Kuromitsu, but then realizes she conceals a dark secret. He learns that he is unable to die and continues to live for a thousand years as Japan evolves into a future society.
It's often strange how some anime can divide opinions on how good it actually is, and the reasons for these divided opinions are often logical and plausible. In the case of Kurozuka however, there is a definite misinterpretation of the story as a whole.
Kurozuka began life as a novel written by Yumemakura Baku, which was later illustrated by Noguchi Takashi in manga form. The manga was serialized in Super Jump magazine from 2003 to 2006, before being turned into an anime by Madhouse in 2008.
The story in Kurozuka is where many of the divided opinions stem from. Many people consider the story to be confusing,
especially at the very end, however this can confusion can somewhat berectified by watching the first five minutes of the first episode again.
At heart Kurozuka may seem to be a story about vampires, love, betrayal, and revenge, however I found it to be more than just the sum of it's parts. Kurozuka is very much a "what if" tale, and the ending is actually very appropriate when considered in this light. There is a lot of action in the story, and the viewer will sometimes wonder what the hell is going on (as I did), but if you stick with it then you may find the story strangely captivating.
The art and animation are top notch in this show. Madhouse pulled out a lot of the stops when designing the characters and animating the show, especially during the numerous action sequences. CG is incorporated very well overall, with only a few minor faults that are barely noticeable. The characters are designed very well on the whole, and I especially liked the incorporation of traditional Kabuki players into the series as it gives the show a far more surreal feel. Each episode begins with a small kabuki play which recounts the events of the previous episode, and I found that the designs, animation and sound for these scenes were excellent.
The sound is another excellent area, especially the music and sound effects. The BGMs never overpower the sound effects during the action sequences, and the use of non-traditional animation techniques for these sequences made them exceptional.
The VAs are, again, excellent. Paku Romi is excellent as Kuromitsu, whilst Miyano Mamoru's monotonous tones are strangely suitable for the amnesiac Kurou. The other VAs are just as good as the two leads. Fujiwara Keiji, who plays Karuta, manages to imbue his voice with a certain "roguish" quality that suitably matches Karuta's design and personality.
The characters are actually one of the bad things about this show, however I say this with a certain amount of trepidation. On the whole the characters are well done, however there is very little development given to them - they're just there for the most part. However, this would only really be a problem if you were watching this as a straightforward story rather than a "what if" tale. That said though, even a "what if" tale would need it's characters developed to a much greater degree than Kurozuka manages to do.
That doesn't mean I hate the characters though. I thought the characters were. on the whole, fairly decent. My problem is that I would have liked to have known more about them as characters - their motivations and such.
Kurozuka is a great action anime, however it can be very confusing at times. There is a definite story there, but many people will find it confusing for the most part, especially as the story doesn't really hint at what's really going on until the end (suffice to say I found it a very "Dallas" moment).
This is a good show to watch if you're after some good action and aren't overly concerned with the story. It may not be everyone's cup of tea though, especially with the scientific angle it takes on the vampirism issue. This is a story about love, loss, betrayal and revenge, and these aspects of the show are very much at the fore. However there are some elements of the show which can leave you wondering why a particular event happened in the first place, and this is only compounded by the continued lack of an explanation.
The animation seems to overpower an exaggerated plot. Viewers who crave cyberpunk animations consisting of time lapses and vicious fight scenes will have a pleasant taste out of this series. Yet there is much of the plot that may leave the audience hungry. Once you take a bite out of my review, you'll understand what I mean.
~[ S T O R Y ]~ 
Kurozuka focuses on the concept of immortality along with the quest for the meaning of mortality. Initially, I had assumed a vampiric aspect came into play [Kuromitsu sucking blood for example]. As the series progressed, the aspect grew more scientific. Here we
have the main character, Kurou, wanting to spend all eternity with Kuromitsu. I once thought it was a romantic struggle between the two protagonists, yet the plot grew more confusing later on. What with the beheading of Kurou to Benkei's murderous motives [due to his desire of having Kuromitsu to himself] to the Resistance against the Red Emperor's Army, just so many subplots made Kurozuka more like a staccato piece than a horror orchestra viewers probably wanted to witness. Even the end itself leaves so much to the imagination that viewers like myself wonder whether the creator intentionally wanted to mess with our minds and trigger heated discussions, or something else we have failed to notice. Other than that, the story could've been portrayed better...
~[A R T]~ 
Post-cyberpunk meets the essence of ancient 12th century art. The serenity of the 12th century atmosphere collaborating with the post-cyberpunk appeal of the anime was rewarded my thumbs up. It brought the animation out more, gluing me to my seat as I endured visual ecstasy. Even the swift fight scenes were brilliant, as expected from the gifted Kurou as well as those involved in battle alongside. Any fan of Death Note can understand that the art between the two animes are strikingly similar. Furthermore, the art was not overexaggerated at all. They were on the dot with their specific time periods, making the anime successfully attractive.
~[S O U N D]~ 
From the miraculous terror of the opening song to the soft tranquility of the ending, Kurozuka had played its music well. The flute and drums matched the ancient liveliness of Japanese culture. The instrumentals had presented the mood well as well as portraying the feel of scenes such as romantic moments, battles, times of agony, despair, hatred, et cetera. I knew what kind of scenes I was expecting from the sound. Nicely done.
~[C H A R A C T E R]~ 
I gave the development of characters a 7 due to the fact that I had expected more from their transformations. Moreover, I expecting a better explanation of the immortality concept. The manga explains more of it whilst the anime has left gaping holes for the viewers' minds to fill. Though Kurou was inconspicuous and monotonous in his expressions, we did have a sense of what he felt inside through his short monologues. I did hope to understand a little more of Kuromitsu, seeing as the series focused more on Kurou's thoughts than anyone else's. Romi Paku and Mamoru Miyano portrayed the voices of their characters well enough for me to give this category a high mark. The rest of the seiyuu's deserve credit. I suppose that the shortness of the series is to blame for cutting short every character's expected developments.
~[ E N J O Y M E N T & O V E R A L L]~ 
Just to be fair, I'll award this anime a 7. Were it to improve in its character and plot development, it would've been awarded a higher grade. Though I do give immense praise to the development of the actual animation. It is different from any other post-cyberpunk anime to exist within the Japanimation realm. The rough grunge scenes, the splash of eccentric hues in the opening and battle scenes, the ancient softness of the 12th century lifestyle - it was all done quite well. Furthermore, the series will leave you thinking on what to value - life or time. Kurozuka is meant to represent the connection between time and life. The two walk hand-in-hand. Without life, there is no time. Without time, there is no life. One affects the other. They both need each other. What is more valuable? Immortality or living to the last minute? That is up to you to decide.
Kurozuka is a lot of things but for the most part it’s a Seinen, Historical, Sci-fi, Action anime jam packed full of high-octane Rated-18 action to please action lovers. However like most series, this one starts of grand but eventually wanes as it progresses.
It begins with the main protagonist, Kurou being pursued for reasons not explained and one intense action sequence later, he and his companion seek shelter in some mysterious woman’s home. Kurou soon develops feelings for this woman named Kuromitsu but soon after he discovers her dirty little secret. Another insanely gruesome action sequence later and the real story begins, as Kurou embarks
on an all new journey of immortality. All I can say is that the 1st episode was awesome but soon after that the biggest flaw in the story soon appears, as early as in the 2nd episode. It is the story’s timeline and when dealing with this concept of immortals living through the ages, it doesn’t help when things keep jumping from period to period, making it easy to lose track of what’s going on in the story (until the action sequences wake you up). Heck by episode four, I gave up on trying to figure out the chronological order of events and just followed Kurou on his unexplained journey to find Kuromitsu. The thing is that the story was actually decent but it was executed poorly, with chucks of major plot points left unexplained.
Another thing wrong with this short series is its characters. Sure the main 2 were fairly interesting but Kuromitsu was as much of a mystery to Kurou as she was to those who watch this. As for Kurou, he would have been more interesting if he actually got some back-story and maybe showed some emotion, instead of those random outbursts. There are actually other characters to mention but they are so bland and uninteresting that I even struggle to remember their names 10mins after watching an episode.
With all the bad stuff taken care of, discussing the animation is a nice change in direction, because it can be described simply as awesome. This anime seems to go for very aesthetically pleasing environments with a sort of grudge textured look and the heaps of CG that actually goes well with it. Not to forget the reason why I think of the animation as perfect, which are the action sequences that have obviously been influenced by a lot of things. As for the music the soundtrack is certainly fitting for the series; with a mixture of tranquil tunes and high-octane beats for any given situation.
Overall Kurozuka proved to be an enjoyable hack ‘n’ slash fest but there are more than enough action sequences for even an action lover to be bored with and having a poorly executed storyline as an alternative isn’t good at all. Trying to make sense of the messy story is like trying to solve a sudoku puzzle; make one mistake and you’ll have to backtrack to where things make sense. Having a lacklustre ending doesn’t help either but those who are able to ignore these flaws would still enjoy Kurozuka for its awesome action and interesting concept.
“Majestic, bizarre, violent and dark. A surreal and poetic journey that turns into something more profound than what it looks like”
REVIEW FREE OF SPOILERS!
"KUROZUKA" it’s a well-founded and rich story. Its narrative could divide people, some by saying it’s boring and unadorned –or complicated- and by others –like me- saying that is meaningful, metaphorical and gorgeous.
The story of this show could be like a stream, whether it calls you, takes you and embraces you leading you swiftly –although, trough some “what the hell is happening here?” moments- across the tale or it rejects you for it isn’t a plain and simple story of vampires
and war, it is complex.
The art depicted in this show is marvelous. The designing of the characters is believable and the action scenes are appealing and not exaggerated like most of the vampire/action shows out there.
The voice acting is a jewel. It is passionate, it is deep. It’s calculated for the type of show that “KUROZUKA” is. The voice actors are believable since they’re transferring the feeling of solitude shown in the show through their voices.
Meanwhile, the soundtrack has a dream-like ring to it. It’s a delicate mixture of instruments. It is cold, sad and dark, like a mirror of the situation the surrounds the characters and their own feelings.
The deepness carried through most of the show –superbly if I may add- in most of its features: Script, voice acting, art and soundtrack is something amazing, yet lacking within the character department. Don’t misunderstand me, the characters are well-defined, distinct and incredibly well depicted –and I liked them, to be honest- but there’s an important aspect that the show didn’t display, the “backbone” of the characters –or in other words, their backstory and development-. To put it bluntly the characters look like they’re just there, like a superfluous, convenient and momentary entertainment without a direction or reason, just a cause. But let us remember that this “cause” this “reason” IS the backbone and the main focus of the story, making the character development/background faintly unnecessary. After all, we as viewers we want to know about the characters we are watching, we want to get “closer” to them, we want to understand the: “why’s, the where’s and the when’s” of each characters, even if the story doesn’t really depend on such things, which is clearly the case of this show.
-ENJOYMENT: 7 & OVERALL: 8-
“KUROZUKA” is a difficult show to watch. As I said before is complex, and for moments it looks like the show doesn’t know where its leading, but the end it’s what makes it a whole. Is it enjoyble? Yes, a lot. But you need an open mind and most importantly understand that this show is meaningful and not just action after action scene.
Sifting through the dark, forgotten recesses of My Anime List like some sort of anime hipster, our writers have brought you 15 of what they consider to be the most underrated anime out there. Under appreciated masterpiece or stinker that got the reception it deserved; you decide.